Walk past the Knickerbocker Ave. subway stop in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and you’re bound to pass staunchly anti-NRA twinks looking like they just got back from a hit job in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
From the Nike windbreakers to the white muscle tanks and gold necklaces, fashion-inclined millennials and Gen Zs are dressing like Christopher Moltisanti — the hot-headed Sopranos character played by Michael Imperioli.
Just look at Christopher, with his bushy brows and bucket hat. He might as well be on his way to Riis Beach, except his racist, homophobic Jersey ass wouldn’t be caught dead in hipster Queens.
The 2020s’ sartorial return to The Sopranos is the amalgamation of several growing revival trends, including the early-aughts renaissance, the prominence of skater style and streetwear and the HBO show’s pandemic surge. GQ reports viewership on the 1999 show surged 179 percent after stay-at-home orders began.
Remember when everyone was quick to credit Normal People for the return of chain necklaces? Let me tell ya a couple of things: The Sopranos did it first. Christopher did it better. And forget about that Paul Mescal nonsense.
But “trendy” is a misnomer for these items. Sure, Italian designer labels like Gucci and Armani are embracing gaudy accessories. So are fashionable celebrities like Troye Sivan and Billie Eilish, who rock Paulie Walnuts bowling shirts and Silvio Dante oversized suits while also pulling influence from another 1999 classic, The Matrix.
But for a certain set of signori, pinky rings, baptismal gold chains and wide-legged suits can’t be trendy because they never went away.
“That [stuff] never went out of style in Bay Ridge, [Brooklyn],” Matt Zoller Seitz, co-author of The Sopranos Sessions, tells MEL. “It’s not just the Italians. It’s very much a kind of urban non-WASP comfort style.”
Think guys like Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems, schmucks who’ve dressed like ’99 since ’99. “Dressing like that is a way of saying, ‘I am a person of the physical world. I am up the street, literally,’” Zoller Seitz says.
I spoke with two old-school retailers still in the game about seeing Sopranos style come back 20 years later — and the likelihood of this revival ever boosting their bottom line.
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Vincent Spilotro, 34, manager of Arezzo Jewelers in Chicago
Alongside his father, Michael Spilotro, Vincent has worked at the Italian jewelry store on Chicago’s Far West Side since 2002.
If you’re talking, like, the younger generation, everyone my age wants what our parents or grandparents had. We sell a lot of baptism jewelry. [Dads] pull off their chain, and they say, “I want something like this. This is what I got as a kid.” They want old-school, traditional. Something from, you know, a long time ago. The ’70s to mid-’80s. It looked good then, and they’re starting to like it again now.
Italian jewelry is basically my business model, so I’m kind of surrounded by it. I see it much more than the average person. So I’d say yeah, it’s more popular; but another jeweler, they’d be like, “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
[I] first noticed it a decade ago, but it’s probably gotten stronger in the last three years. Trends go in cycles, and gold is never gonna go out of style. I mean, someone’s pushing it. I guess you would say we got to specify. Italian men — they wear that one chain they were baptized with, and that’s it. If we’re gonna get a new one, it’s got to be better than that one, you know? That’s just an opinion, but that’s what we wear.
Definitely the pinky rings. Pinky rings do something for a guy’s ego. They see Scarface wear one. They see Tony Soprano wear one. It’s a status symbol. They see someone they look up and idolize wear one. It’s a different way to stand out. The pinky ring is definitely something you wear to show off. It’s at the end of your hand. It stands off more than a wedding ring.
Cuban link chains are by far the most popular heavy link chain. It’s my most Googled chain when I check my Google Analytics. Single chains, too. And shorter. I now wear a 20-inch chain. The average used to be 24-inch. Still is, when we sell for baptism. But now when people buy it at an older age, they get it a little bit shorter, between 20 to 22 inches, so they can hang it above their shirt and show it. The style now, you don’t wear open shirts anymore. There’s no exposed chest anymore. So you got to wear it above.
Rafael, 51, owner of Jordamo retailers in Manhattan
His father, Joseph, founded the Argentine retailer on the Lower East Side in 1983. Rafael has worked the floor since 1988 and took over the business seven years ago.
Our customers used to be a lot of tourists. Now it’s basically people in the neighborhood and people related to the past. The store is not what it used to be.
Until the 2000s, it was a goldmine — before the department stores started to open on Sundays. Most of my customers are repeats. They like my style and my service. I won’t let you leave until I like it. They say, “I trust you. I trust you.” No, please, try it on.
You didn’t see for a while a long coat, wider lapel. It was very tight. Literally you can’t close it. You used to see crotch. It didn’t make sense, and you will go for it because you see your friends are wearing it. You are young. You will suffer to have a look. Even if you pay me every five minutes a dollar to wear something tight, I won’t do it. I have too much stress to wear tight clothes. When I go shopping, I wouldn’t have the guts to buy that now. It’s a little too fast.
Look at this guy. This reminds me of when I started to work here. Back in the day, the suit cut was wide shoulders. Today, it’s narrow shoulders. Pinstripes were in. Really loose. But the longer jacket is coming back. I’m not surprised. I’ve been around. I know things are coming. I see the change in magazines and on the street but not my store yet.
Of course, I wish I had more people in here. It’s going to take a while for it to hit, but the longer jacket is coming back — though I don’t think it ever left. In my little world, that never left.